Hypersonic weapons and nuclear deterrence

Stephen J. Cimbala, Adam Lowther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the relationships between hypersonic weapons and nuclear deterrence. This relationship is fraught with uncertainty because the velocity of innovation in hypersonics is difficult to forecast. Nevertheless, major nuclear powers are developing hypersonic weapons, including some that can be deployed on intercontinental launchers. Hypersonic glide vehicles or cruise missiles could threaten first strike stability by reducing the time for responsive decision making in the face of perceived threats, or by evading antimissile defenses otherwise competent to deflect attacks. Attacks on space based assets and cyberattacks, combined with hypersonic missiles, could pose unacceptable risks to assured retaliation based on an assumed number of survivable launch platforms. On the other hand, analysis suggests that, in the case of the United States and Russia, going forward, strategic nuclear deterrents with currently projected modernization plans should suffice to maintain deterrence and first strike stability, barring unforeseen developments in breakthrough technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-295
Number of pages14
JournalComparative Strategy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations


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